United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Appearances: OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Jacqueline Carle, Esq., Matthew T. Smith, Esq., Camden, New Jersey, Counsel for United States.
GIBBONS P.C., Lawrence S. Lustberg, Esq., Newark, New Jersey, Counsel for Defendant.
HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS, Senior United States District Judge.
Pending before the Court is Defendant Ralph Dennis's application to file an untimely post-trial motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. For the reasons set forth below, Dennis's application will be denied.
On July 17th, 2012, Defendant Ralph Dennis was arrested in connection with an investigation conducted by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (" ATF" ). The ATF investigation concerned Dennis's participation in a conspiracy to rob somewhere between fifteen and twenty kilograms of cocaine from a " stash house" where a fictional Mexican drug cartel purportedly held cocaine earmarked for sale in the southern New Jersey region.
On April 17th, 2013, Dennis was charged under a Superseding Indictment with three counts: (1) conspiracy to commit robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); (2) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846; and (3) using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). At the conclusion of his trial on May 23rd, 2013, the jury convicted Dennis on all three counts.
In mid-October 2013, the Court set Dennis's sentencing for November 15th, 2013.
During the intervening period from conviction through sentencing, neither Dennis nor his trial counsel, Assistant Federal Defender Tom Young, Esq., filed for post-trial relief. Upon appearing at his sentencing hearing on November 15th, Dennis expressed that Young had not reviewed the pre-sentence investigation report with him, and the Court adjourned sentencing until January 7th, 2014.
On November 27th, 2013, Dennis wrote to the Court requesting the appointment of new counsel. In his letter, Dennis asserted that his relationship with Young was " broken and severed beyond repair." (Dennis Ltr., Nov. 27, 2013, at 1) Further, Dennis believed Young had waived " several important legal avenues" regarding future appeals. (Id.) Finally, Dennis contended that Young advised him that these " legal avenues" could not be litigated until after sentencing. (Id.)
Following Dennis's request, the Government and Young indicated that they had no objection to the appointment of new counsel. After holding a hearing on January 7th, 2014, and a subsequent search for available counsel, the Court appointed Dennis's present counsel, Lawrence Lustberg, Esq., on January 14th. On May 1st, the Court held a telephone status conference setting Dennis's sentencing hearing for July 8th.
On June 26th, Just prior to the July 8th sentencing hearing, the Court received letters from counsel for Dennis and from the Government. In his letter, Dennis's counsel sought leave to file a post-trial motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 seeking a new trial despite Rule 33(b)(2)'s fourteen-day time limit for filing a motion for such relief. The Government ...